Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two weeks

...until the 2008 Olympic team is named. Sometime between now and then, the pair will be named, seatraces will be raced, and a 2K erg test will be rowed. And then...

"Training doesn't get easier, you just get faster." --Greg LeMond

One day, one practice, one piece, one stroke...at a time.

Here we go!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Loss and Rowing

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea."
-Isak Dinesen

Two weeks ago, I got a phone call in the middle of the night that felt like a punch in my solar plexus. A very dear friend who I'd spoken with only a day before had ended his life. As his brother told me the details of what had happened, I tried to make sense of it, as disbelief and an incredible sadness filled my heart. How could this charismatic and talented young man, who was so in love with life, have been in so much pain and felt so alone? And how could I not have known about these feelings?

I've never lost anyone I've loved before like this, without a chance to believe it was going to happen, without a chance to say goodbye. I didn't know all the things that come with it. The overpowering feelings: sadness, anger, grief, confusion, loneliness, love. That one day spent remembering that person and grieving can be more exhausting than a 50K training day. How one minute you are filled with happy memories of that person being very much alive, and the next, you are struck with the reality that you won't ever get to make more.

Coming back to training has been both challenging and easy. Part of my day is still spent trying to make sense of what happened, trying to come to terms with the fact that my friend is gone and I will never share a laugh or hug with him again, except in my heart and in my mind. The rowing part is somehow simpler now, though. I don't know if it heals or if it distracts, but I feel more focused and peaceful, and willing to be patient. At the same time, I feel stronger and faster than before, and I'm rowing better than I ever have in my life. A strange confluence of my feelings and my athleticism.

I saw "Into the Wild" yesterday, and some of the quotes Christopher McCandless's character references very much hit home.

"...the sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head..."
—Primo Levi

"Death's a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to the centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness..."
—Robinson Jeffers

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Checking in from San Diego

We've now been back and training in San Diego for a few days. Just as it always is, having a short break to go home and visit the family was a bit of a mixed blessing--it's wonderful to get to hang out with my brother (12) and sister (17) because I rarely get to see them, and to catch up with friends from high school who are now out leading amazing lives in the real world, but it's also challenging to go from a pretty structured and scheduled existence to a completely free-form one and try to keep up with all the training I want to do. I managed it pretty well, thanks in large part to tracking down some other kids training in the area over the break and logging some miles with them instead of just solo. If nothing else, it's definitely helpful to remind myself that I'm not the only one plugging away at this...and that when I'm thinking about slacking off, there's someone else who I might be up against who's instead powering through the doldrums. As Michelle Guerette puts it, "On a rest day, you aren't necessarily getting slower, but someone else will be using it to get faster."

It was a bit of a mind trip, too (in the best possible way!), to hang out with my high school friends. Because I was originally going to graduate at age 16, they're all a little older and now done with college and all just doing so well... it makes me so proud! A couple of engagements, one employee of the year, jobs everywhere from Newport to Boston to Jaipur, India to Lusaka, Zambia! It makes me wonder a bit what I would be up to if rowing was not my total focus...but the rowing thing is pretty cool, too, I suppose.

Today starts about 7 weeks of pretty intense training. Tom has it set up to be about 3 weeks of steadily increasing intensity, then a lighter week with "evaluation" (aka erg testing)--then rinse and repeat. My 30 minute scores have gotten better, my 2x6K scores are improving, I can do 4 pullups (up from one!) at a go, I've lost weight, so I'd like to think I'm getting fitter...of course, it's still what I need to focus on the most, because this is an incredibly fit group of women that I'm trying to keep up with! We'll be doing our first 2K soon, so I've started doing visualizations and other exercises that were helpful last year. It's also a goal not to get too stressed out about it--better to be able to be a bit flexible while setting an expectation that I'll perform to the best of my abilities than to make everything ride on hitting each goal exactly how and when I want to. The other thought I have on that is that sometimes telling yourself that there is an absolute goal you MUST accomplish--an erg split, a 3-rep max bench press, a mile test time--means that you limit yourself, because you could actually outperform what you had thought was your limit. I spent the end of the spring angry at myself because I psyched myself out with my goal split for a 2K...which actually was not a particularly ambitious split for how fit I was. I'm much more confident in the work I've done so far this year, which is a good sign in terms of being mentally ready for spring testing.

I'm updating our basic training program on the Google Spreadsheet I posted before, so if you're looking for a general 1-2 (or, I suppose, 7) week training plan, it will be up there. Happy rowing of the indoor and outdoor varieties!